Manufacturing Solutions Expo 2017: An Interview with Nicolas Nesme
The fourth edition of Manufacturing Solutions Expo (MSE) was held at the Singapore Expo from October 25th to 27th 2017, in which more than 4,500 trade visitors and 120 international and regional brands from over 25 countries participated.
Highlights of the show included a showcase of emerging technologies and solutions within the manufacturing environment. Amongst the exhibitors was VISEO Asia, an IT company that specializes in SAP integration, supply chain optimization, Salesforce integration and Digital Squad.
Nicolas Nesme, Supply Chain Optimization Manager at VISEO Asia, shares his thoughts and observations after his participation in MSE 2017.
Based on the main theme of MSE 2017, what is your idea of the future of manufacturing?
NN: To me, it is like a Sci-Fi movie - the Industry 4.0. With the advent of AI, blockchain, robotics, IoT, 3D printing, big data and predictive analytics, the idea of a smart factory is no longer that of a futuristic dream. I believe that these technologies will be able to streamline processes within the production line and become synchronized. This will not only decrease labor costs, but also optimize production and inventory costs, and consequently, improve service levels as non-value-added activities are eliminated.
What are some key challenges that the industry faces?
NN: Innovation implementation is always difficult. There are so many factors involved, such as the cost of new technologies and the level of maturity. Sometimes, we see companies investing and trying out new technologies, but their applications and budgets are indefinite. Thus, the value for their customers is also unclear. The ROI then becomes difficult to assess, and so the implementation is delayed.
When processes become automated, the data needs to be shared seamlessly as well. For example, smart refrigerators: it can track the type of groceries you put into it, how much you consume, each time you remove the items from your fridge. Ultimately, when you’re running out of certain items, the fridge could automatically trigger a reorder.
This seamless process might not be welcomed by all. As the issue of data security and privacy arises - companies should ask themselves how much data should be shared? Are people comfortable with having all their information shared with supermarkets, grocers and more? Putting it into the context of manufacturing, this data transparency may also affect bargaining power for parties in the value chain, such as that between the supplier and the manufacturer.
In the end, it all boils down to the decision makers’ mindset. Are they willing to step out of their comfort zone and take the risk to explore new technologies? If not, the future remains just a dream.
What are some trends that you have observed?
NN: Manufacturing has gone through many rounds of industrial revolutions over the years, starting from the mass production to more customized and made-to-order productions now. Currently, there is a lot of automation going on in the industry globally, we hear things about 3D printing, drone delivery, automated warehouses etc. I would say the trend is more focused on interconnectivity and mobility – how we can connect everything to make things automated, while lowering costs of production, improve turnaround, and therefore, increase efficiency in meeting customers’ demands.
Let’s take a look at the retail industry. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an application that will automatically scan your entire body when you are using your laptop or mobile phone while shopping online, so you can know exactly which piece of clothing fits you and what is suitable for your size? Even to let you know if it is in stock at the store if you want to pick it up? This can also help retailers to collate data about their customers and predict future sales and trends.
As I mentioned earlier, Industry 4.0 is no longer a futuristic dream. We talk about smart factories. For instance, we can see more and more fully automated production lines increasing efficiency, reducing costs and decreasing defects. More and more requests are raised to trigger automated actions/reactions. In supply chain planning, AI, predictive analytics, machine learning are often mentioned now to facilitate demand and production planning. We could imagine soon that these solutions will detect in real time, potential bottlenecks, lack of capacity, shortages, problems and even, suggest options and make decisions.
So how would you envision the role of VISEO in this digital transformation?
NN: At MSE 2017, we saw many practitioners and industry thought leaders sharing about the latest manufacturing technological solutions, which helped them in achieving their business goals. What I feel is that these automation and robotics are all focused on a certain part of the production process, but what about on a higher level?
VISEO is working on a lot of new technologies: a blockchain project with Renault and Microsoft, IoT with Carrefour, AI with Direct Energy, just to name a few. We are equipped with the skills related to the different technologies, and we understand the relationship between processes, solutions and new technologies. We are eager to work with companies on their projects to innovate and bring value, whether it is to improve current processes, or to search for new solutions. I believe in the interconnectivity between different functions. By breaking down silos, we can collaborate seamlessly, bring about greater value and make a difference.
Lastly, do you have any words to share about the digital transformation?
NN: At VISEO, our motto is “when ideas become projects”. The future is getting so close, we just need to step up to the challenge and transform the ideas into projects.
Do not be afraid of what is new and what is unknown to you. There is no harm in embracing innovation. If there is already an existing issue, nothing will change if you just leave it as it is. Trying out new solutions might just be the key to solving it. Everyone is looking at what companies like Amazon and Alibaba did, why not just do it? You might be the next big hit in the industry.